Math and All the Drama


I’m a pretty smart person. I have a hard time admitting that a lot of the time, which is funny because I put a whole lot of my value in being a smart person. I don’t claim to make sense, my brain is a strange merry-go-round and I can’t explain it. The point is that the majority of the time I am used to understanding things with at least a relative amount of ease. Put another way, I am really not used to feeling stupid and I’m really bad at it. Math makes me feel stupid. Like really, really stupid.

I will admit that some of this is probably how math was taught to me. My mother is a super good with math kind of person. It comes really easily to her, which I have always imagined must be nice. As she was homeschooling us, it was quite a shock to her to discover that for at least two of her children number were basically a complete mystery. My mom is great with math and a really bad teacher. She knew her kids were smart and she simply could not accept that we were not understanding these concepts that came so easily to her. I think I did okay at things until I got to algebra and geometry. Like I can do all the basic stuff and do it fairly well (preferably with a calculator but whatever, the point is that I wasn’t such a dunce that I didn’t understand the basics, okay?) but the minute I got into… you know what? It wasn’t even algebra. I think the trouble started once we got into fractions. From that time forward math became a battle. Every day I ended up crying at the table and mom ended up yelling at me because she was so sure that I must just be faking it. That was apparently the only thing that made any sense to her. I was smart, there was no reason I couldn’t understand this, therefor I must understand it and just be pretending not to. Or possibly she was just insanely frustrated and this was the crazy thing she threw at me. It’s hard to say. The point is that my memories of math all involve a whole lot of sobbing and being yelled at. So something that I was not likely to ever be any good at to begin with became something I was essentially terrified of.

The point of all of this is that I am taking a math class this quarter. It is not an advanced math class, of course. I would not have placed into an advanced math class. It should be the only math class I have to take in my entire college career, fingers crossed. But the other night I looked at my book and was filled with a deep and profound sense of dread. I am legitimately afraid of not being able to do it. I have, up until this point, had a perfect 4.0 gpa and I am afraid of screwing that up. I don’t remember how to do these things. Like legitimately, I don’t even remember how to do long division. I mean, it doesn’t matter. You can do it on a calculator. Which is why I don’t remember how to do it. Look, I used to have this argument with my mother constantly. “I am never going to need to USE this!” And my mother would insist to me that that was not true, that it was useful in day to day life. But here I am at almost 30 and I know for a fact that she is full of crap. Because the reason I don’t remember how to do any of these things is that not a single time in my day to day life have I ever had to do any of these things. Any math things I have had to do I have been able to easily use a calculator for. I have never needed algebra. I know it was nonsense. Of course there are people with jobs who very much need these skills but I never needed more than the basics that I was totally competent in. She always told me I wouldn’t have a calculator everywhere I went but guess what, mom? Didn’t foresee cell phones, did ya? Totally have a calculator everywhere I go. I’m set. So you know. Here we are. I’m taking a class that I am mildly resentful about having to take and I know that really the mild resentment isn’t resentment at all, it’s basically terror. I’m totally freaked out of something that I can’t bullshit my way through, something that makes me feel stupid and that I may very well not do awesomely at. Because being a perfectionist is a bitch and because I never did learn how to fail at things, or even not do well at things. Mostly I just avoided things that I wouldn’t be good at.

I have a friend who offered her son to help tutor me. I should definitely take her up on that and I haven’t yet in part because I feel a little ridiculous? Like the first chapter is literally stuff that I know you learn in like… 7th grade. I did learn the stuff in 7th grade but I don’t remember it. And I am fairly sure I can probably get through the first couple chapters with a calculator. On the other hand… I’ve actually never been tutored in anything before and I should probably just be a big girl and deal with it and say “okay, so realistically at this point I have about the math comprehension of a 6th grader (slight exaggeration but maybe not much? I’m actually not sure) and I don’t actually have a problem with that but my GPA might, please fix me.” I am not sure what I will do on that front.

So. Probably I will update at least at the end of the quarter with whatever important life lesson I’ve learned. I’m counting on an important life lesson here because I think that is the absolute least I can expect from this nonsense.


One thought on “Math and All the Drama

  1. One thing I really appreciated… I never had like traumatic math learning experience, but I hadn’t taken math in ~10 years and I was always a slacker when it came to homework and practicing with the concepts and stuff and basically after the specific test I just deleted it all from my brain… anyway, but in the college math I took last summer, on the first day when we were all doing our introductions and stuff, he had us say when the last time we took a math class was and whether we had had positive or negative experiences with learning math in the past. It was really comforting because everyone was more or less in the same boat. I mean, in a class like that… basically no one has taken math since ninth grade, no one remembers friggin’ pre-cal, and no one is some kind of math genius. I know it’s personal and you have to like swallow your pride a little bit (and yeah do the tutoring) and you probably have a bit of a block there based on your past experience, but overall I mean… I think you’ll be in good company. And they probably let you use the precious CALCULATOR for everything! So fuck it.

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